House Republicans play waiting game on 'fiscal cliff' negotiations

House Republicans say they are waiting for the Senate to act on a possible "fiscal cliff" deal.

At an hourlong meeting of the conference Sunday night, GOP leaders told their rank and file to wait on the Senate and to be ready on New Year's Eve in case they are needed for a vote.

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"We’ve done what we’re supposed to do, we’re hoping they get something done,” Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told The Hill following the conference meeting.

“Be available,” was the message that leaders had for their membership, according to a number of lawmakers exiting the meeting.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) plainly told members he was staying out of negotiations between Senate leaders because in the past, House Republicans had been “burned,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said.

Boehner discouraged members from speculating about a final outcome on a deal to avert the year-end slate of tax hikes and spending cuts, saying they would simply have to see what the Senate produced.  

Lawmakers were also warned they could be in session right up until Wednesday morning, just hours before the 112th Congress ends and the 113th begins at noon.

GOP leaders shifted their conference meeting to Sunday from Monday just in case the Senate reached a fiscal-cliff deal Sunday, which would have set up a House vote Sunday night.

House Republicans say their conference now is on standby and likely will meet at some point Monday to discuss any movement in the Senate. The House is set to meet at 9 a.m. House lawmakers have been sidelined ever since they rejected a "Plan B" fiscal-cliff proposal from Boehner that would have extended tax rates on families with annual income under $1 million. Dozens of Republicans opposed the Speaker's bill because they saw it as a tax hike on wealthier households, but the actions left Boehner will less leverage in the talks and has led to questions about his future as Speaker.

Boehner told his colleagues that he spent Saturday ironing 22 shirts, and that he “has shirts for a month now,” according to a source in the room.

Boehner later told The Hill that he used the iron that House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) gave to him last year for his birthday.

Boehner did not comment on the fiscal-cliff talks.

The House Rules committee took action on Sunday night that would expedite consideration of any Senate-backed deal.

If the Senate is able to pass a deal, the House would bypass the normal three-day waiting period set aside for lawmakers to read bills.

Grumpy-looking staff and lawmakers told The Hill that they anticipated spending New Year’s in the Capitol. Some even hinted that there may be a few toasts in the offices should the House be in business when the clock strikes midnight.

— Russell Berman contributed to this report.